Melbourne Victory hit all-time low
Melbourne City will be sweating on the fitness of Andrew Nabbout and Rostyn Griffiths for their semi-final in ten days’ time after they succumbed to early injuries in the side’s 2-1 loss against Newcastle Jets.
Played in Sydney due to Victoria’s Covid restrictions, the match served as a final-tune up before finals for City but it quickly turned sour after both players went down in the first-half.
The result may have had little bearing for City having already wrapped up top spot but the loss ultimately condemns cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory to their first ever wooden spoon.
A point was all that was needed for Newcastle to leap off the bottom of the table – but a late winner from Apostolos Stamatelopoulos put them two points clear.
City coach Patrick Kisnorbo made the call to start Nabbout in an almost full-strength line-up after miraculously returning from a nasty adductor injury which he sustained four weeks ago.
However, in the dying embers of the first half, the forward pulled up lame with what looked to be a suspected recurrence of the same injury.
After attempting to play on, Nabbout was clearly labouring and was substituted at the break for fellow injury returnee Nathaniel Atkinson after two months on the sidelines.
Having boasted the league’s best attack this season, the injury is another blow to their already depleted attacking stocks with Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren on international duty.
City should get some respite as English winger Craig Noone is expected to return from soreness next week.
Griffiths, meanwhile, was subbed off clutching his hamstring after only 17 minutes – further weakening their centre-back stocks.
Assistant coach Des Buckingham said they weren’t sure of the severity of Nabbout’s injury but appeared confident Griffiths’ injury isn’t too serious.
“Andy (Nabbout) was always due to play between 30-45 minutes so again just easing him back in so we will assess him once we get a chance to,” Buckingham said post-game.
“Rostyn just felt a little bit tight so I wouldn’t think it’s too serious and it’s more precautionary especially with what we have coming up.”
With Curtis Good already missing on Socceroos duty, youngster Alec Mills was subbed on to partner Nuno Reis for the remainder of the contest.
Should Griffiths miss out, it would mean Mills may be rewarded with his first ever A-League start on the big stage of finals football.
Both players have an extra two days to prove their fitness for their home semi-final after the contest was moved to next Sunday in order to allow for potentially more fans to attend the contest as Melbourne’s Covid restrictions begin to ease.
Now that Nabbout may miss their opening final, a spot in the front three has potentially opened up for Stefan Colakovski, who impressed leading the line – putting his best case forward for a start after scoring the opener.
City will head into finals without a win in three games and will host the lowest-ranked winner of the Elimination Finals at AAMI Park in ten days time.
Buckingham said he wasn’t concerned about the side’s minor drop in form since wrapping up the Premiers Plate.
“We’ve been trying a few different things that we knew we had to try in preparation for finals,” he said.
“The most important thing is we’ve been getting minutes into players... now it’s just about preparing ourselves over the next ten days.”
For Newcastle, it was the final game in the tenure of coach Craig Deans, who announced he will be stepping aside after a season in charge.
16-year-old Archie Goodwin was the star of the show for the Jets, scoring a stunning equaliser with a curling rocket from long-range to tie the game before Stamatelopoulos’ header put them ahead with moments to go.
Newcastle will be in action one last time this campaign when they hit the road to face Western United in an FFA Cup qualifier on a yet to be determined date.
Originally published as Melbourne Victory hit all-time low